Episode Transcript
Ixchell Reyes
The DIESOL podcast

Brent Warner
Digital Integration in English as a Second or Other Language,

Ixchell Reyes
Episode 27. How to use breakout rooms with Savyonne Steindler.

Brent Warner
Hello and welcome to DIESOL. This is Episode 27. We are your hosts I am Brent Warner,

Ixchell Reyes
and I’m Ixchell Reyes – oh my goodness Episode 27 already?

Brent Warner
Can you believe it? We’ve made it the magic number 27 whatever. It’s a prime number, right?

Ixchell Reyes
No. Can we can we continue? Sure. Skip this.

Brent Warner
You don’t want to talk about that? You want to talk about prime numbers on this show?

Ixchell Reyes
thrilling our topic.

Brent Warner
All right. Okay, so how are you doing?

Ixchell Reyes
I’m pretty good. I just I was mentioning in the pre show that I’m a little sad because I just left California. And so the shock of being back.

Brent Warner
You know, you can move back. Maybe

Ixchell Reyes
I was spoiled for two weeks. So it was it was great. I’ll be back soon.

Brent Warner
Okay. So today we have Savyonne Steindler. How are you doing?

Savyonne Steindler
Well, happy to be here.

Brent Warner
Good. Thank you for coming on the show. So Savy, we brought you on because we wanted to talk specifically. We’ve been looking out there seeing what different teachers are talking about what people really need help with. And, and a lot of teachers are still struggling or figuring out or trying to integrate breakout rooms, especially in zoom. I think that’s pretty, you know, people are starting really starting to recognize how important that is. And I think that’s growing more and more. And some teachers maybe people who listen to us are like I’ve been doing breakout rooms since the first day but a lot of people haven’t right and so they’re just kind of doing the lecture thing and whatever but I know that you’ve been putting a lot of work into it so so we want

Ixchell Reyes
a proper introduction.

Brent Warner
Oh, yeah, no, I got my introduction coming we want we just want to say like Savy we want to talk to you about this. Okay, so, so Savy, let me give you the proper introduction. And you tell me if anything’s wrong here but Savyonne Steindler you earned your BA in cultural anthropology and Jewish Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz, and an MSN teasle at Cal State University Fullerton and then Savy volunteered teaching EFL and health education spending a bunch of time in gondar Ethiopia so that’s cheesy been all over the place you got so many different experiences. So Savy currently teaches non credit ESL at Irvine Valley College together with me which is awesome. And then also at Orange Coast College. And along with any Tell me if I’m saying this right merrily Is that right? Maraly Cervantes uh, is the co author of “ESL for Parents of Elementary School Children: English Skills to Advocate for Your Child’s Success”, which is due to be published by Kendall Hunt in spring 2021. That’s going to be a good topic, too

Savyonne Steindler
Yes, very exciting.

Brent Warner
Yeah, we don’t get a lot of like, elementary talk. We don’t get enough elementary talk. I feel like you know, there’s like a whole different part of the the ESL world that’s like Elementary, and so maybe we’ll have to talk about that again in the future, too. But, so here we are. Today, we’re focusing in on breakout rooms and so Savy, can you just share? Well, how did you Why? Tell me a little bit about your experience with breakout rooms and using them?

Savyonne Steindler
Sure, well, I I tend to be a very

student focused teacher. I like to spend most of my classes in class, in person classes and groups. And I’m not a big fan of lecturing. So you know, as soon as we went to zoom, I was focused on how can I make, you know, the activities that I love work on zoom. So I try to spend most of my classes in breakout rooms doing different activities, switching them up, you know, every 10 to 15 minutes. So, yeah, I don’t know if I’m really an expert, but I’ve tried to think of a lot of different activities to engage my students and also activities that work with a number of different topics because I’m teaching all sorts of subjects, idioms, grammar, workplace English, English for parents. So I like to think of activities that work, you know, in many different settings and many topics that makes our lives easier and also easier for our students.

Brent Warner
Yeah, and so I think that’s an important thing to think about too is like the different settings for your for your teaching. Because I feel like sometimes teachers are like, Oh, well, I’m teaching this. And so yeah, of course, we’re using breakout rooms. But I’m teaching that. And so I don’t really have a reason to use breakout rooms or maybe like limited thinking or limited practice and doing those types of things. So, so you said you’re teaching idioms, grammar, workplace English, pretty much the whole I mean, you know, when

Ixchell Reyes
parenting English for parents, I think you said our parents. So a pretty

Brent Warner
big variety there. Right. And so there’s a place for for using breakout rooms pretty much wherever you are in the, in the yellow world. All right.

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, I agree. And over the summer, I was teaching an IEP class that was a reading writing grammar class. And, you know, even with reading and writing, I think there’s a big place for breakout rooms. And that’s one way to make, you know, learning about writing and reading more enjoyable for students and less bland, I think so.

Ixchell Reyes
I think every topic it can work well, that’s a good point. Because I’ve, you know, sometimes teachers get stuck on Well, we can only do listening and speaking activities. And that’s just, yeah, initially, that’s the first thing that you should, that should come up in here when you’re thinking about it. But you’ve got to be able to do beyond that. Because when we do group discussions, or a small group discussions or pairs in face to face teaching, we don’t just do listening, speaking, right. So I like that you’re bringing that point up.

Brent Warner
So let’s, let’s jump into into the thick of it, we’re kind of we’ve kind of intro here. So let’s jump over and actually start talking about how you do all of this Savy.

Ixchell Reyes
So um, as we said, Just now, breakout rooms serve as a great place to have paired or small group discussions. But there’s a lot to consider when we use them so as to not limit ourselves and not place limits on our students. And also, to break up the the challenge that is teaching online, we want to talk a little bit about how we should set up rooms because we should be thinking about that just like we do in the classroom. What activities work best for breakout rooms, right? Some activities may make work better in small groups or pairs. And then what do we do while the students are in the rooms? Is that just do teachers go in and out? I know, I’ve seen a lot of teachers ask zoom for the ability to monitor all rooms at once? Or is there a time when the teacher needs to step back and not monitor? When is the right place to go in? And then what do we do after a breakout activity just get zoomed back to the main room. And then it’s over. And now what so we want to talk to you a little bit about what you’re doing in the classroom and how you approach those ideas.

Savyonne Steindler
Great. So I’ll get started with before, I think before is really critical. Because as many people have mentioned, once you go into the rooms, it’s it’s hard to monitor just like Michelle said, You can’t monitor monitor them all at once. So you need to really make sure that students are prepared for whatever task and they know you know what to expect once they get to the room. So for me, I always like to give students something to look at while they’re in breakout rooms. And depending on the task, that might just be questions in the chat box. That might be a Google Doc link to some kind of worksheet or activity. It might be just having them take a picture of the screen. And I like to give students many options. So I’ll usually give them a link. And I’ll say, you know also you can take a picture. Sometimes I give QR codes, because I teach non credit. And a lot of our students struggle with technology. So first, I try to give them something to look at and then many ways to access that once they’re in the breakout room in case they don’t know how to use one way.

Brent Warner
So let’s talk about that for a second Savy because this is actually quite an issue with zoom and like the chat links because when students join in late they don’t see the links or as soon as they go out you can’t brought you can’t you can do the broadcast. I don’t think the broadcast lets you do links though, right? Like you have to go and go into the chat and leave a link if you haven’t if you haven’t prepared them ahead of time. Right so so Exactly. This is kind of technical, but I think it’s valuable for people to hear like like one of the things that you actually need to pay attention to doing actually in zoom or whichever one right to make sure that they’re that they get all of those, hey, you tell them actively like take the picture or click the link before we go or I don’t know like what is your process for all this?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, so um, first I explained this the activity and I model it then I will usually put the link or the questions into the chat I will say I don’t like file sharing on zoom because it’s it takes me a long time at least like to find file, and then students on iPads. I don’t know if it’s still true with the latest update. But students on iPads don’t get the files. And it’s a mess. It’s a total I just hate file share. Yeah. So I usually do a Google Doc link, unless it’s something really simple, like conversation questions. And then I asked, and I tell students open the link before you go to breakout rooms. Because, again, I don’t know if this is still true. But it was a case that on phones and iPads, students couldn’t see the chat from the main room once they went to the breakout room. So I tell everyone open it before you go to the breakout room. And or take a picture before you go, I whichever they prefer. And then I also usually I put screenshots of how to share your screen, I only do it like once per class. And when I was teaching IEP, I didn’t do this. But with non credit, it’s really important, I think, for them to like, see how to share screens, because often they just don’t even try it because they’re, they think they can’t do it. And then if someone comes in late, most groups will be sharing their screen. So you know, I don’t even have to give them the file or the link, they can just go right in and see what their classmates are doing on the screen.

Brent Warner
And then just real quickly, because they’re saying, hey, it’s okay to take a picture of this too. So that means that whatever you’re sharing, you’re trying to get all of the directions onto one screen, like one slide of whatever you’re sharing with them. Is that right? or bigger, so it wouldn’t be multi part, I guess, is what I’m saying? Or would it be?

Savyonne Steindler
It depends. So sometimes I have multi part things. In that case, I wouldn’t advise them to take a picture. I would just rely on them having the link, but if it’s something that fits all on one screen anyways, so I throw that in, you know, feel free to take a picture, right? But usually like now we’re in week, what week are we like? I think I OCC is week seven and IBC? week eight, right? We’re going into

Brent Warner
sure something like that.

Ixchell Reyes
We through the drill. Yeah.

Brent Warner
Okay, so then. So you get them into their rooms. Right? So so you’re prepping up that way. Oh, and then by the way, let’s also talk briefly about actually moving them into the rooms, because I know that a lot of teachers have problems with like, how do I get them into the room. So it’s always like, the easiest one to do is just the random breakout rooms, right? Like just clicking the button and say, Hey, randomly, I want six rooms, and I want five people in each room or whatever it is. But that’s problematic, too, right? Like, because you don’t always one language balance doesn’t work that way. Right? Or, or maybe you have a specific set of group of students that you want to go together. And then teachers are like, Well, okay, it’s gonna take me 10 minutes to go click and make sure that I’ve got all the right names with everything. So how do you process that?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, so for me, I know that you could pre assign the groups before, you know, your meeting starts. But for me, I teach non credit, and I never really know who’s going to show up on a single day. So I don’t bother to make the group’s in advance. Also, I, you know, IVC Wait, we have I can’t remember the word they can come anytime during the semester, right? Yes, exactly. So you know, even some student I never met before might show up. So what I do is I’d randomly assign, and I think carefully about how big the group will be. Especially in the beginning of the semester, if I want them to share their screens, or use annotation, I will make sure I have bigger groups, because there’s a higher chance that someone in that group will know how to do those things. Oh, yes, if it’s something like that’s lower, has like a lower tech requirement, then I can, you know, maybe choose smaller groups, whichever group size is ideal for the activity. And then I randomly assign groups and I take a quick look. And usually I know, which I know, like which students are more tech savvy. So especially in my OCC classes, right now, I have maybe class sizes have about 20 students, so I can take a quick look and make sure there’s someone relatively tech savvy in each group IVC my, my idioms class had 38 people the other day, so I can’t necessarily do that. But that’s the point we are at now. Anyways, we’re pretty tech savvy. So um, so that’s what I think about with grouping I randomly assign and then I just make some quick changes. So I might move one or two students, so it doesn’t take very long.

Brent Warner
Okay, cool. I’m gonna throw out one more hint that I learned somewhat recently that’s been really helpful for me, which is teaching students to rename themselves with their group number. So as soon as they, I tell them to put so if if I want to repeat a group, and sometimes I do because I’m like, hey, today or Part One, tomorrow you’re doing part two, or whatever it is. And so a great tool inside is on the screen there, the three dots. So when you move your mouse over a picture there, the three dots, you click on that you have the option for rename. And so when you teach your students to rename, then you would say, hey, okay, if you’re in group one, then put yourself as one. So it would be one, Brent Warner, or, you know, to Michelle raise or whatever it is, right. And so then very quickly, on mice Breakout Room screen, I get everybody’s names rearranged by number, and then I’ll like, and then it’s very quick to say, hey, I want them number one, to go into group one. And number two is to go into group two. Number three is to go into group three, and I can just click it, and I get it done in about 15 or 20 seconds, as compared to the four or five, six minutes that I was like, Okay, wait a second. You know, Shao, Wei Lu, and Shao Wei, Liu, Liu versus Liu in which one, like getting all confused in my head, trying to read the different names and all those things. So if you’re repeating, a lot of people didn’t know about that, I guess. And I’ve heard I’ve heard and I’ve heard, you know, I was on Twitter the other day, and someone’s like showing it. And that’s like, Oh, yeah, that’s really valuable. So that is a trick that will save you a lot of time if you’re if you’re repeating groups over and over again.

Savyonne Steindler
Okay, great idea. And I saw that you can also have students now with a new one of the more recent updates assigned themselves, so

Brent Warner
yeah, I haven’t tried it yet. But the only problem is that all the students need to be updated on the newest version of zoom themselves. So they will get there. You know, probably by the time this episode comes out, I’ve been told him to download it, download it, download it, but zoom doesn’t push updates on people as much as other programs do like and you’ve got a download version 1.1 point 1.1. Point three like it’s like now, zoom does not force that upon you nearly as much and so. So a lot of my students haven’t caught up with that quite yet. But okay, so now let’s move into the room. What are we doing in the rooms?

Savyonne Steindler
Sure, well, I have a lot of go to activities that I like to use, and a lot of them are just adapted activities, from my in person classroom to me to explain some activities.

Brent Warner
Sure. Let’s see, let’s see what you got going on.

Savyonne Steindler
Okay, so Well, first, I just would say that, you know, I don’t spend all my class doing these activities, of course, we use the book, we use, you know, the activities that are in the book, along with the class, and I have students share screens, if we have an E book for that, or, you know, we do those normal kinds of activities, too. But also, you know, when we’re trying to review certain points, I tried to bring in, you know, more CLT kind of activities. One is jigsaw, I really love jigsaw as I’m known as the jigsaw Queen at OCC. A lot of my classes have textbooks that are really text heavy, so it can get really boring. And, you know, you’re trying to think how can I, you know, make it different this unit, I don’t want to just have my students read, you know, every time in the same way, so we do jigsaws, and I’m always afraid it’s not gonna work on zoom, I always think it’s gonna be terrible. Like, how is this gonna all work perfectly in a breakout room? But it works better than in the in person classroom every time I try.

Brent Warner
Okay, let’s talk about that for a second. So one, can you quickly for anyone who’s listening that might not be familiar with jigsaw? Which, at this point, you know, it’s fairly common practice, but not necessarily everywhere. So. So can you clarify like how you what, what is the jigsaw? And then how do you set it up for for the breakout rooms?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, so basically, a jigsaw is a type of information gap where students have different pieces of information, and they’re trying to put it together. So first, you break up a text, or you can do it with a listening, I haven’t tried it with a listening. But that might work well actually on zoom. So you break up a text or listening into pieces. And then each group gets one piece, and they read it together or listen together. You can give them instructions, like I tell them, like take notes of the main points and discuss anything that’s not clear to you, in their groups. Then you jigsaw so you take one representative from each of the original groups, and you form new groups. And each person has to share what they read about or listened to in their first group. So they each become an expert and can share their new expertise with a new group.

Brent Warner
Yeah, okay, so then. So that’s the kind of standard setup for jigsaw, right? And then how do we do this though, because I think a lot of teachers are like, Yeah, I did this in the classroom where they would sit at a table together and and then they would all run around and go to different places. But how do you set this up digitally, right, because it’s going to be a different I mean, the

Ixchell Reyes
I think, the scary for some for some teachers to try it out because you’re not seeing them physically right, you’re not seeing them. So that becomes like, well, I’m afraid that it’s like you said it’s gonna fail or something. So sorry, Brett didn’t get a

Brent Warner
right. I mean, I think there’s a lot of like, theoretical, there’s a lot of breaking points in there, right? The link didn’t work or I didn’t get it in or I can find the, you know, like, I couldn’t access the google doc or whatever it is. Right. So. So I think people would be interested in like the the technical setup here, like, how do you make sure that it’s going to work for your students?

Savyonne Steindler
Yes. Well, first, whenever I try something new, I try to tell students like, oh, we’re gonna try this out today. And I’ve heard other teachers say they do this, and I took it from them, like, we’re going to try, you know, experiment today, we’re going to try something new. See if it works. And if it doesn’t work, then Well, no. That way, I think you can, you know, have a little less stress for yourself and doing it. But I will say every time I’ve done it on zoom, it works perfectly. So.

Brent Warner
So you’re here, like several years later. So I’ve been doing this for years, but this is the first time I’ve ever tried. Just in case it doesn’t go well. Right. You have a safety there? Yeah, no, I agree. I do the same thing with my class all the time. It’s always like, hey, everything’s an experiment, everything. We don’t know what’s gonna happen, right? Especially online. I mean, I got kicked out of class three times the other day, and I’m like,

Savyonne Steindler
okay. So yeah, so I think setting them up. And I don’t do that now. And I do jigsaws. But you know, if you’re nervous. So that’s one way to kind of lower the expectations and lower the stress. Then I make sure everyone knows their group. And I make sure everyone knows what they are in charge of reading. So I use PowerPoint for my zoom classes. So I will list Group A is reading this, whether it’s a page number or a link. If I’m using links, then I just copy and paste all the groups of the links and put it in the chat. And I tell everyone, open your link before you go to your group. And I read out everyone’s names, or I, in a bigger class, I would type out in advance everyone’s names in the group, so they know which group they’re in. In the in person class, I always had people like confused, don’t know which group they’re in. But now I’ve never had that problem. Actually, surprisingly, in zoom class, most interesting, good

Brent Warner
luck, because because there’s like multiple modalities of ways that they can see what’s going on is what you’re saying. Right? So maybe fewer, fewer problems, or they can kind of catch it themselves, where they might not hear you in a regular class. If you’re just saying, hey, just go over there, right?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, maybe maybe. Interesting. All right. Um, yeah. And then, let’s see. So I make sure everyone has their different parts. And then I, I make that groups in advance, like maybe when they’re in a previous breakout room, because like I said, I never know who’s going to come to class. So I, I write down my, or the first time I guess, is random, sorry, I’m getting confused. The first time I do it randomly. And depending how many students I have, right, and then I assign them to the groups. And they go, and they report, and I tell them to share their screens in advance. So if one person loses the link or is confused, then they can get, you know, with it right away. Maybe that’s why it’s easier on zoom, because they’re just kind of like put into their groups, they don’t have to find their groups. And then I give them time, and I pop through the groups, then I bring them back. And the really important thing for me, while I’m in the groups, I’m making their new groups. So I look, I look at the list of names on zoom, and I see who’s the first person listed under each group, and I write those people together, who’s the second person listed, I write those people together third, so I’m making their new groups as they’re talking in breakout rooms. And then they come they come back, and I assign them. And this takes time. And I heard Brent had a good idea of having them, like renamed themselves with their new group number. I don’t do that right now, just because I’m not sure all my students know how to do it. Because I in the non credit class, but what I do is I put the instructions on the screen. So while I’m making the new groups, they have something they’re reading and looking at, so they know what to do for the next task.

Brent Warner
Okay, so that’s smart. So so you’re, you’re putting something up. So sorry, this is the moment that you’ve brought everybody back between group one right, the expert group so they do the expert group work, then they come back, then you have something that they some activity for them to do for like a minute or two while you are preparing the while you’re basically reorganizing the new groups is that What’s that? What’s going on there?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, I just have the instructions for what to do next. Okay. So like you’re gonna get with your new group. Each person will have read something different. Each you’ll take turns reporting adding to your group what you read what were the main ideas, the most interesting things. So you know, that can take them, you know, a minute or two to read, okay, as you are manually making the group’s that’s

Brent Warner
smart, so you’re doubling up on purpose because I would sit there and just be like, Okay, I’m gonna explain this all to you guys, and you’re gonna listen and then obviously not be able to click through at the same time. So you’re just saying, hey, just read it, because I need to get this set up. So they know what you’re doing. But yeah, that’s a lot better use of your time.

Ixchell Reyes
You know, I wanted to mention, I was just speaking to another colleague to just today we were talking about how, using breakout rooms or for speaking activity, sometimes it becomes a burden when students automatically think Wait, how am I supposed to respond to this while they’re still taking in information? And so I like that you’re putting something up for them to now sort of have like a little bit of quiet head time to, to read it, and comprehend it and then be ready to respond and not just like, okay, go to the next room. And now you’re like, wait, we wait, I was just over there. But there was no transitioning. And so it can create a burden on our on our emergent speakers, since they’re constantly expected to respond, and they’re so worried about how to respond. So I really like that that sort of brings them back and gets them re ready to to continue to the next activity.

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, I haven’t really thought of it before. But especially if you’re it’s your first time and you think it might take, you know, a couple minutes for you to remake those groups. You can tell students Okay, take this time to take notes. You know, what were the main points that you covered in your conversation? Because not everyone takes notes while they’re talking. So you can give them more of that reflection time for that purpose. Yeah, yeah. That’s great.

Ixchell Reyes
That’s a great idea.

Brent Warner
Okay, so then now you’re you’ve taken the time, you’re ready to put them into their new groups, right? And you send them back out, and they’ve got group, Section B, or whatever it is right there in part two of this, right. So what are they doing here?

Savyonne Steindler
So yeah, they each take turns, and they’re reporting. And I think this is the part they like the best. Because they get to hear from the other groups. Yeah, they take turns, this part takes a bigger chunk of time I find. And I just pop in and I try, I always give them about a minute or two before I pop in, because I realize it takes some time to get settled. And I don’t want them to right away, like rely on the teacher to help them get started. So I give him like a minute or two, and then I pop through and make sure everyone knows what they’re doing. And most of the time, you know, when I pop in there, they’re already doing their jigsaw and they’re reporting back to their group.

Brent Warner
This is a very satisfying feeling when you go into a room and students are working and talking to each other. Like sometimes you go in and there’s like, dead silence, right? Like, come on, you guys like talking about when you go in? And they’re like, yeah, this is what it’s like, Okay, this, this really worked. And that is, as a teacher, it’s very fulfilling.

Ixchell Reyes
I have a confession. So recently as a teacher, when I participated in some of some webinars, and you know, the the culminating activity as always, oh, we’re going to break it rose to discuss and it’s like, man, yeah. Oh, so if there’s no if that’s just the directive, and and people, you know, sometimes it’s nice for people to pop in and ask, but it’s it, I feel that what you said is giving students something to look at or notes to take, and then, you know, that sort of gives them a little push, especially like, I’m shy, I don’t like to talk. And that might surprise people, but I prefer to listen, and and maybe later talk, but again, what if you’re that new student? That’s a scary, totally agree, giving them that time to settle and get started. Because eventually, someone’s gonna say something, and it may not be related to the topic, but they’re gonna break the ice and then focus or the teacher might come in and refocus them.

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, I totally agree. And I think, you know, it might be partly because I teach non credit and my students are, are incredibly motivated, and they want to learn and they want to be there. So they’re gonna, you know, even if they’re shy, you know, they’re, they’re on task, and they’re, they’re focused. Um, but I think also, you know, also my IP students over the summer, you know, they had great Breakout Room conversation, so it’s good to give them a little autonomy. Yeah, I agree.

Brent Warner
And I think that those experiences for us as teachers, when we end up in those breakout rooms, they’re good learning opportunities for us to go Wait a second, this person did not set us up very well, or, you know, like, whatever they did was awesome, because I’m totally digging this and I’m ready to have that, you know, and so, paying attention as teachers to how other teachers are presenting that information to us is is you know, you know, taking the

Ixchell Reyes
form of breakout room.

Brent Warner
Okay, um, so then Savy, for this case, we’re still talking about breakouts in general, but like, let’s say then you Come back out of the breakout room back to the main to the main, you know, everybody back together. And so how are you keeping them together and engaged at that point? Is it just a review? Or is it like, Well, what do you got going on when you’re back with 30? Or 40? People or whatever it is? Or 20?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, yeah. So I like to always give them some kind of post task. So it might be that I tell them, you know, choose one person from your group, you know, to report back something interesting that you discussed. And I might like broadcast that message halfway through, I don’t tell them at the beginning. So I feel like they have a lot of instructions already. Or towards the end, I might pop into the groups, depending how many groups that are. I might do a zoom poll lately, I’m getting really into zoom polls, as a way of just like, formative assessment,

Ixchell Reyes
a next episode.

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, so you can, you know, have some comprehension questions. For example, like when jigsaw I did was like five interview tips for my workplace class. So I might have some comprehension questions about the different tips. And we can do that poll and see, okay, how much did we actually get from each other? If it’s a reading jigsaw, I tried to also encourage them, like I only had you read one part in class, but now that we’ve created this hunger to know more, you know, these are the pages you can read the other sections yourself in that credit class, I might assign it. Get like optional, and a lot of students will choose to do that. Yeah, so those are some

Brent Warner
Yeah, I really like the idea of the polls coming in, because you’ve already set it up. Here’s all the information that they should be knowing by the end, right. So did they do everything? Well, and that’s, that’s a really good way for you to guide and, and to know where to follow up and to pay to, you know, check check for comprehension, of course, and and do those formative assessments and see where you need to spend more time talking to them or, or doing more activities after the fact too, right. So Hmm, okay, awesome. So that’s a pretty good, that’s a pretty good rundown. I think that could be generalized for everything. But I noticed that you said you also do like, not just jigsaws. But you have all sorts of different activity activities that you’re doing. So let’s just, let’s just grab a few of the things that you you might recommend in just in different settings. What other things are you trying to get students to do when they’re going into breakout rooms? And how are you? How are you using it for them to, to better engage?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, so right now, I’m teaching idioms and grammar of two, two of my classes. So a lot of that is, you know, controlled, guided communicative practice. So I need to think of different kinds of activities that work on zoom for those stages. So one thing we do is taboo. And I had to think, how can we adapt? A lot of us are familiar with taboo, how can we adapt that to zoom, okay. And if you don’t know, taboo, you know, you get a word, and it’s a secret word, and you have to describe it, and your group needs to guess which word you’re thinking of. So what I do for zoom, is I, if I’m doing vocabulary, I will take the words, and I just make a grid of the words in like a Word document, okay. Or, if I have a Quizlet set, I go to print, and I make it double sided. So then it puts automatically all of my words on one page, and I just screenshot that. And I can easily get without having to take them. So then I share that document with students. And we model first together on zoom, I do a lot of modeling, because I because it takes a while for me to get to every group. So I will choose like a word and describe it and have my students guests. And then I show them screenshots, how can you share your screen, I put them in groups, and then they will play together, you know, choosing one of the words that they see and describing it and then their team members or their group members can guess the words and take turns.

Brent Warner
Okay, so this is I’ve thought about this activity a few times, but I haven’t processed quite yet. And maybe I missed you saying this, or maybe we haven’t talked about it yet. But how do you make sure that the other students don’t see the words that you’re giving? Right? Because when you share what you share with everybody, right, or you share with one student, but how do you how do you get it out? So it’s like the that little you know, each individual one one student per group is the one that gets access to that. How do you make that work?

Savyonne Steindler
So that’s my workaround. I don’t do that. Oh, I grid with like 30 words. So they’re choosing one out of the 30 everyone sees the 30 words, but they don’t know which one you’re choosing.

Brent Warner
Oh, yeah, see, so they know that hey, this word is going to be on this page somewhere. And but I am going to have to guess based on the clues and then I can choose one of the 30 based on on those different clues in They’re

Savyonne Steindler
exactly and I think it’s actually a little easier for students that way. So they’re not just like pulling out of their mind, they have like something they can look at. And I’ve adopted this for adjective clauses, and it was really fun. So I would have like different objects or people, and they play this game, but instead of just getting random clues, they say it’s someone who, or it’s something that to give their clues. And then they’re practicing adjective clauses while playing this game. So it can be for grammar as well.

Brent Warner
That’s awesome. Okay, so I like that idea. And, you know, the course is going to depend on the levels, but you now you’re not assuming background knowledge of the correct vocabulary or something like that they have an option there to work with and to pull from, that’s very clever, okay. Because I’m always, like, that’s gonna be so much work to go and click around to each student, and then send them the particular words or whatever it is, or I know someone’s you know, if I give them the list, then if I give a list to everybody, and I just say you just look on page one, and you just look on page two, they’re never gonna do that, right? They’re gonna go look at everything. So just giving everything up front. That’s really smart. I like that a lot. And that, and you’re right, that could be adapted to anything if there’s a big enough selection of words for them to work with.

Savyonne Steindler
Sometimes I’ll give them Oh, sorry.

Brent Warner
Oh, sorry. I was just wondering, like, how did the students respond to that? Do they like, they they seem interested?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, they really love it every time like someone be like, Oh, that was fun. So they have a really reaction. I’ll give them I didn’t mention this, like three pages. So if they get sick of the first page words, they can scroll down to the next page and their new words they can play with. So just a little, a lot

Ixchell Reyes
Savy is this. You’re mentioning a list? Is this the list? You mentioned, where you screenshot it and just put it on a dock? Is that what you do? And then they have access to it. And so they’re able to control it once they go into their breakout room. Right? Okay. Exactly. Exactly. That’s really smart.

Brent Warner
All right. Let’s, let’s sort let’s, let’s get one more activity that you’re doing in the breakout rooms. And then we’ll, we’ll I think we’re kind of getting close to time. But yeah, but I’m now I’m like, Okay, I got all these ideas. All right.

Savyonne Steindler
Sure, another one is tic tac toe. I don’t know if you’ve, you’ve played a vocabulary tic tac toe in your classes before. But almost everyone knows how to play tic tac toe. They don’t know the name for it, but they know. So I make Tic Tac Toe grids. And for vocabulary, you can put like a vocabulary word or idiom in the boxes. For grammar, you might put modals or you know, irregular verbs, whatever you want them to practice, then they play tic tac toe, you’ll have to teach them how to annotate. So again, I show them screenshots to show them how to draw on the screen on zoom,

Brent Warner
the zoom annotations, okay, yes.

Savyonne Steindler
But if my noncredit students can do it, like,

my mic, I love my noncredit students, but sometimes it takes us a little time with tech. But I think if my students can do it, your students can do it too. With the proper, you know, preparation. And so basically, tic tac toe, every square has a word. On your turn, if you want to go in a box, you have to ask your partner a question with that word. And then they can answer. If you want to practice like irregular verbs, you can make it just make a sentence. Okay. But I like questions more communicative. And so they’re trying to win the game by using the words or verb forms in the boxes.

Brent Warner
So the person asking the question gets the X or whatever their their indicated. Key is

Savyonne Steindler
exactly. Okay. Exactly.

Brent Warner
Yeah, that seems so then then that’s so that’s first, did you do that with pairs only? Or do that with smaller groups to watch? Or how do you break that up?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, so preferably pairs, and I wouldn’t do this with noncredit. I wouldn’t do this at the beginning of the semester. We did this, I think, maybe two weeks ago. So that was Week Six, I think or week five. So I first you know, make sure they’ve been sharing screens for a few weeks, you know, and then I’ll teach them how to annotate. And, and so you, if you want to do pairs, you have to make sure that you know, everyone, at least half of your people know how to share screens, you could do groups of two, and have them like take turns asking and answering and make it a little more complex. And I would say that I model it a lot the first time. Usually, if you do it once the next time, you don’t have to, you know, do that much preparation, but I would say it takes you know, a few minutes of modeling one or two games before they can do it by themselves.

Ixchell Reyes
So it sounds Savy that what I’m hearing you talk about this is that there’s gotta be a clear purpose when you’re doing all of these activities, right? It’s not just what We normally would do and go to that room and read to each other. There’s got to be a purpose before, during and after, right? And then you can do the games, a little activities. But I think that that when sometimes because I’ve had teachers come and ask me, like, I really want to learn how to use breakout rooms, and what they’re saying is, what other purposes Can I use it for? Then just putting them into groups, and just thinking about that, I think this will will, will probably help a lot of us out there. As we’re thinking, as Brent said, not everybody. They know there is a breakout room function. And and sometimes I’ve had teachers tell me, because I’m currently doing a lot of tech training, they come in, but I’m afraid that it’s going to go wrong, or I’m afraid I don’t know where it and that’s okay. And like you said, have a clear purpose, explain it to the students. We’re trying this for the first time. If it fails, we try again, tomorrow, or we adjust right. And so but I think being purposeful in all of these activities helps them to to be beneficial for the students. And I firmly believe that when students know there’s a purpose, even if they don’t know, to verbalize it, they come out of the activity, knowing like, Hey, that was fun. Let’s do it again. Or maybe not even fun. But hey, I got something out of that. Let’s do it again.

Savyonne Steindler
Definitely, and it makes them feel more comfortable, because they know their classmates better. And it’s, you know, not so intimidating to show up to class. Once you you know, have some friends there.

Brent Warner
Yeah, I also think jigsaw, maybe, maybe not so much. In this case. jigsaw might be longer, but I like that these are kind of quick grab and go activities in a way, right? Because, because then it’s like, go in, get the work done, and then come out. And we can do the next part and move forward with things, right. Because I think what happens is a lot of times, depending like I’ll have different activities going on, but sometimes they run too long, right? Or sometimes they’re, you know, like, it’s like, Okay, well, how much time do they actually need to get through all of this, but when you know, that it’s kind of like a, you know, I think you’d mentioned that there might be like 15 minutes average or something like that, then it’s just in, get it done, come out, and then we’re ready to go and move to the next part. Do you always choose like activities that are shorter in general? Or what do you have a standard for that?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, I think it’s just my style. I’m like, a little high strung and I like to, you know, move to the next thing. Next thing, next thing. So generally, I would say, you know, I don’t have my students spend more than 10 minutes, okay, on a single thing, maybe it’s, you know, 10 minutes and breakout room, five minutes, you know, together, maybe five more minutes to brief the presenting, and then you know, back to the breakout rooms for five to 10 minutes, and then back out. So I like to always be, you know, jumping between one thing and the next and then if it does one thing doesn’t work out, then you know, you’ll have another thing that you can do after. Yeah, that way doesn’t get boring.

Ixchell Reyes
Yeah, right. Yeah, that’s true. I would not want to be in or, you know, breakout room for 40 minutes. And I know that I’ve heard colleagues and not necessarily that I work with now, but just in general, like, Well, what do I do during those 40 minutes? Like, what do you mean, what do you do during those 40 minutes while they’re in a breakout room? You’re leaving them in a breakout room for? I know, what I would do as a student?

Unknown Speaker
may be a bit much.

Brent Warner
Yeah, that’s a there’s another thing that I always think of as it just kind of a hint to teachers, I guess, which is that when you click on that button to return them back from the breakout rooms, if it’s like said, I know you can adjust this time, right? So you can say, hey, it’s gonna be 15 seconds, or 30 seconds, or one minute, but mine just defaulted at 30 seconds. So when they get the notification, they’re going to come. A hint to me that the activity is working well, is that they don’t come back until the whole room closes down, right? If I click that button, and then it’s like, three seconds later, everybody starts coming back, then it means they’ve been done and they’re ready to come back into the main room, right? But if I click it, and it’s that whole 30 seconds moves through, and then it’s like, okay, now, at the very end, the whole group comes back together, then I’m like, Okay, you guys, we’re clearly talking to each other and working on all of this. And so, so that that tends to work out pretty well as a an indicator. I think that your activity is working and kind of keep notes on that as well.

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, I agree. And I also, I’ve had to mention to my students, you know what, when you’re done, you’re not done. You’re here to learn English. If you’re finished with your activity. You’re never done. You know, make conversation practice your English. You’re never really done.

Brent Warner
Yeah, absolutely. Okay, so Savy. These are lots of great ideas. I think a lot of a lot of places for people to go and get started and maybe planning adjustments to their lesson. Or for people who are going to get started with these things. But, you know, there’s there’s kind of so much just to run with the idea of recognizing a few of these patterns that you can use. Before we kind of move on and wrap up, is there anything else that you’d like people to know or think about when they’re building or planning using breakout rooms more in their classes?

Savyonne Steindler
Well, I think if you’re hesitating because you don’t think it’s gonna work. Don’t Don’t worry. The beauty of breakout rooms is a lot of it is on the students. So you just have to set it up, and then the students will take it from there. So it’s really not as scary as it seems. Otherwise, I think, for me visuals, and like I mentioned, visuals and preparation. And I think it’ll go Well, yeah, and there are many different things you can do you don’t I think sometimes teachers get intimidated. I know I did when the pandemic first started, like, there’s so many tools out there, I have to learn them all. My students will expect me to use something different every class, but that’s really tiring for the students to always be using like a new tech tool, and always learning something new. So I think the beauty of zoom and breakout rooms is there’s a million things you can do with only one tool. So it doesn’t have to be you know about learning so many new things.

Brent Warner
Awesome. So, with that, I think we’re ready to wrap up and move over to our fun finds.

Ixchell Reyes
Okay, so for our fun find. This time I have a food item. It is something I picked up at the Japanese dollar store in California. And I’m sure you can find them online. But this is style guy annoy which is a Japanese tempura crispy seaweed. And I picked up the spicy kind. They’re just like chips. So if you’ve had I think, Brent you’ve mentioned the the ones from Trader Joe’s. Yeah. They’re really good. I am regretful that I didn’t go back for more. Oh, yeah.

Brent Warner
For some reason, I had it in my head Ixchell that you didn’t like that spicy food. So you chose

Ixchell Reyes
No, I love spicy food. Okay,

Brent Warner
Why did I have that? Okay, nevermind. I apologize.

Ixchell Reyes
It’s the other Ixchell.

Brent Warner
Yeah, my. My other co hosting Ixchell. Okay, awesome. So mine is we’re in the middle of October here. And I think a lot of people know that I like horror movies and Halloween. And so, this year, I am doing, you know, the 31 day challenge of watching movies, I try to watch a horror movie or horse, you know, TV show or something every every day. And so there’s online, there’s a hashtag 31 days of horror challenge. And a friend showed this to me where people were, they didn’t tell you which movies to watch. They just gave you a theme. So it’s like, you know, college kids, or, you know, bad witch or Good Witch or something like that. And then you try and think of for yourself something that might fit into that category. And so I’m just having a good time. And this time this year, I’m trying to watch a bunch of movies that I’ve never seen before or that I maybe only seen once or something in the long and long path. So So if by the time this episode comes out, we’ll already be more than halfway through the month, but you can still participate and you can still go back and watch any of these movies. So hashtag 31 days of horror challenge. That’s people are doing it on Instagram and on Twitter and everything else so so I’m having a good time with that one. Sorry, how about you?

Savyonne Steindler
Yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of pandemic baking and cooking. All of our waist lines are slowly expanding over here. Lately, I my students were posting pictures of some of the things they were baking and I saw they’re baking things with matcha. So I bought some matcha and I mean matcha waffles and I’ve been drinking matcha lattes and I’m gonna try to make everything much that I can right now.

Brent Warner
You know that the trick with matcha is like by itself it’s quite healthy. But when you put it into waffles it doesn’t it doesn’t really do much for your health. But

Ixchell Reyes
well, we’re just glad this is not a health podcast. That certainly would not survive that

Brent Warner
very well. So

Ixchell Reyes
thank you so much for listening to the show. You can win a you could win one of a kind DIESOL pin and by leaving us a review on Apple podcasts we haven’t seen any recently. So if you’re out there listening, so sorry for Halloween, where

Brent Warner
are new reviews? Actually, it’s weird because we have quite a few reviews in there. Do we catch everyone in there? Shall we should double check?

Ixchell Reyes
Yeah, we got to double check but if you’re giving us a shout in any other way, tag us on social media so that we know that you’re out there.

Brent Warner
That’s right. So for show notes, any information on this episode, you can go check out DIESOL.org slash two, seven. And you can also listen to us at voice said Canada. So voice ed.ca where there’s lots of other great education shows. Of course, you can find us on Twitter. You can find the show at DIESOLpod and you can find me at Brent g Warner.

Ixchell Reyes
You can find me Ixchell, @ i x y underscore p i x y, that’s Ixy underscore, Pixy.

Brent Warner
And Savy, How can people find you?

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, you can send me an email. My email is on S A V Y O N N E @gmail.com.

Brent Warner
Oh, look at that fancy

Ixchell Reyes
email.

Brent Warner
That’s a first name email, he got the Madonna of emails and

Savyonne Steindler
one of the few benefits of a difficult name.

Brent Warner
It’s true. So it’s like you, Madonna and Beyonce have your own.

Awesome so they can find you on Gmail. And of course we’ll have a link to that in the show notes as well.

Savyonne Steindler
Okay, and Hebrew Thank you is Tada – Tada for tuning into the DIESOL podcast.

Brent Warner
Thanks, everybody,

Ixchell Reyes
See you next time bye

Savyonne Steindler earned her BA in Cultural Anthropology and Jewish Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and an MS in TESOL at California State University, Fullerton. She has volunteered teaching EFL and Health Education, spending the most time in Gondar, Ethiopia.

She currently teaches noncredit ESL at Irvine Valley College and Orange Coast College.  Along with Marely Cervantes, she is co-author of “ESL for Parents of Elementary School Children: English Skills to Advocate for Your Child’s Success,” due to be published by Kendall Hunt in Spring 2021. She served in many roles for the CATESOL Orange County Board, including as Coordinator during the 2019-2020 school year.

In this episode we explore better ways to set up breakout rooms. One of the most used features of many online communication platforms is also one that can be used creatively to engage students in several activities. Savy shares with us her approach to breakout rooms and how we can maximize their potential during distance learning classes.

Topics Discussed

  • The technical ins and outs of setting up breakout rooms 
  • Which activities work best for breakout rooms
  • What teachers should do while students are in the rooms
  • What to do after a breakout activity
  • and much more!

Savyonne’s Resources:

ESL for Parents of Elementary School Chidren

Coming soon from Kendall Hunt. This book is expected to release in early 2021, and focuses on helping parents develop English skills to advocate for their child’s success.

Find Savyonne on Linkedin

FUN FINDS

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